Christine Edzard’s The Fool and Sydney Pollack’s Havana, plus Narrow Margin, Kindergarten Cop,
INDEX: 19 LISTINGS: WEEK ONE 26 WEEK TWO 28
Rocky V and Breaking In reviewed.
In her follow-up to the monumental Little Dorritt, director Christine Edzard once again strips back the Victorian veneer of respectability to reveal a world ofcorruption with modern resonances. Miranda France met her to discuss her new film The Fool.
There were quite a few questions I would have liked to ask Christine Edzard. but I lost my nerve. I wanted to know what it was like being a female director in a male-dominated world. how it felt to command a cast so full ofstars it positively glitters. how she summoned up the gumption to have her tiny company build. from scratch. the sort of lavish scenery you expect ofAmadeus and .. .well, as I say. I lost my nerve. Christine Edzard is not the kind ofwoman to be intimidated by men. famous stars or gargantuan production headaches.
Little Dorrit was an awesome six hours long— which made it perfect viewing for the many poor souls who were sofa-ridden on Boxing Day. By comparison. The Fool’s a snip at just under two hours. but it too. is a paradox — a little-big film in which lavish sets and a huge cast are teeterineg balanced on a tiny budget. Edzard’s husband. and co-producer. cheerfully describes it as a ‘kamikaze‘ way of carrying on. Together they run Sands Films. the only autonomous film company in Britain. at Rotherhithe Studios. which is also their home. in south London. There. a small. permanent staff turns out furniture and settings worthy ofVersailles.
The film’s exquisite 19th century ornaments. for example. were fashioned from plastic pots and colanders and the priceless paintings were
~ ~ \ Sarah Pickering in 1988's Little Dorrit
made from blown-up colour photocopies of postcards. Since there were no sewing machines in the 1850s. seven scamstresses made the costumes by hand. All this is fast becoming legendary and. appropriately. an exhibition of the set. furniture and costumes has already opened (‘Quite a nice way ofshowing off’. according to Edzard).
As the film‘s co-writer and editor. Olivier Stockman. explains. it makes sense to be as meticulous as possible. ‘lfyou ask an actor to say “I love you". and at the same time you give him a hard. uncomfortable shirt. it doesn't work.‘ For Edzard. it is more a question of truth: ‘the closer you are to being truthful. the more weight what you have to say is bound to carry.‘
A large part of the screenplay is based on the research ofthe great Victorian chronicler. llenry Mayhew. Mayhew‘s concern for the lives of the poor in London led him to carry out numerous and very thorough interviews with various low-lifers. from street-sellers and sweepers to fly-paper makers. Later he published his findings in London Labour and the London Poor.
If this were Upstairs. Downstairs one could say that Edzard and Stockman drew on Mayhew for the film‘s Domzstairs scenario. and painted in the Upstairs characters themselves. The part of Mr Frederick — the fool - was created for Little
Derek Jacobi and Cyril Cusack
[)orrit's star Derek Jacobi. Far from foolish. although he claims his brain is as ‘dry as a biscuit‘, he is a spry theatre clerk who has discovered an ingenious way of insinuating himself into high society by assuming the character of a certain ‘Sir John' everyone knows but no one remembers very clearly.
Life at the top. he discovers. is not so different from the haggling. stealing and battering of London‘s poor. Except that here the insider dealing. fraud and financial scandals are quietly sanctioned. Sounds familiar? lt should do. for Edzard's intention is to make a film with a message for our times. ‘What the film is saying is that you may not use the fact that the poor wheel and deal to justify what the rich do.‘ It is. perhaps. a more effective attack on (‘in fraud than any slick 1990s documentary.
(iive (‘hristine [Edzard credit for anything and she immediately redistributes it among the people with whom she works. Collectively. then. they are responsible for an eloquent and enjoyable piece ot'cinema. tor a timely injection ofimagination into the British film industry and for the resurrection of a dead Victorian sociologist.
The Fool (( ') opens a! the ( 'ameo. lz'tlinlmrg/i on Friday I February.
The List 25 January - 7 February 19‘)! 17